More commonly known as an ear infection, Otitis media is one of the most common childhood illnesses. Ear infections develop due to a buildup of bacteria or a viral infection behind the eardrum, also known as the middle ear. This buildup is due to a blockage of the Eustachian tube, which connects the inner ear to the throat. This tube can become blocked or swollen for several different reasons, including sinus infections, colds, allergies, smoking tobacco and more. Ear infections can be very painful as they develop, building up both inflammation and pressure behind the eardrum without any way to drain.
Ear infections are most common in children because they have a much smaller Eustachian tube, ultimately making it easier to become clogged. There are also several different factors that leave you and your child at risk for developing fluid behind the ear. Those risk factors include; altitude changes, recent illness or previous ear infections, and tobacco smoke. For a child, it has been found that early bottle use and the use of a pacifier have shown later susceptibility to otitis media. The continuous sucking on both bottle and pacifier cause the Eustachian tube to stay open abnormally long allowing bacteria and more an easy passage into the ear. A team of pediatricians from Finland found that through limiting the use of a pacifier, you can reduce your child’s risk of contracting otitis media.
Whether you have experienced the many symptoms of an ear infection or not, there are many common symptoms that you should keep an eye out for. The most common and recognized are fever, fluid draining from the ear, lack of sleep and even a loss of appetite. Other symptoms that are not often associated with ear infections include popping and/or ringing in the ear. As pressure builds up, it not only causes pain in the ear, but it alters how the eardrum picks up vibration which can be translated into that ringing or popping. Often, if this happens in a child and they are unable to communicate that their ear(s) hurt, they will rub their ear in attempt to alleviate the pain. In adults or young adults, they may experience difficulty in hearing beyond the ringing; sounds will seem muffled or distorted. A severe symptom that can cause more serious issues beyond the infection itself, is a lack or loss of balance and extreme dizziness.
Usually ear infections are treated with an oral antibiotic, ear drops, or in more severe cases, surgery. Surgery is typically a last resort form of treatment, and only used when the infection has become a recurring issue. Although the surgery is effective in draining the fluid built up behind the eardrum, it can potentially cause hearing issues later in life due to the tube being inserted into the eardrum. Antibiotics have been shown, on occasion, to slightly decrease the duration of the ear infection. These antibiotics can decrease the body’s natural immune system’s ability to operate at an optimal level, which is why antibiotics should always be paired with probiotics. Also, it is very hard to justify using an antibiotic when the ear infection is caused by a virus…yet this happens all the time.
Many people are not in favor of antibiotic treatment. In terms of holistic or natural treatment – other options do exist. Consider the “watch-and-wait” method, which has been well documented, as a form of natural treatment that allows the body to fight infection on its own – minus the side effects of antibiotics. I have had patients ask me if chiropractic can treat ear infections, to which my response is typically that it has been known to help, but the purpose of chiropractic care is not to treat any disease or condition; it is to reestablish the body to its optimal efficiency bringing back proper bodily functions. With chiropractic care, removing the nerve interference on the nervous system, the body is better able to recognize foreign bodies of bacteria and viruses with the purpose of expelling them. Chiropractic is a great option for those already suffering from a painful ear infection, or those looking to prevent the ear infection from occurring. The nervous system is the communication highway for the body – it is integral in generating and coordinating the body’s immune response and defense. With or without an ear infection, we should all start paying closer attention to our nervous system in relation to our health, whether that be preventative or reparative, in order for our bodies to reach peak performance.